Twenty years ago tomorrow - February 24th, 1996 - having wanted to get here since childhood, I landed on Canadian soil for the very first time. It was the first day of a year-long trip around the world, begun (as it ended) on my late mother's birthday. I arrived to a bitterly cold Montreal, excited as to what the next twelve months might bring and, long story short - spanning Canada, the US, Fiji, Australia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and, as you do, Finland - it was an astonishing year of adventure, amazing memories, and not a little stress to boot. (Funny how I chose to begin and end the year in sub-zero temperatures, though...I wonder if that says something about me?!)
Yet who could have known back on that day two decades ago that my subsequent life's journey would today find me having lived in Canada, a country that had always fascinated me, for the last nine-odd years?
Despite the considerable expense it added to my round-the-world air ticket, I chose to start my epic trip in Canada simply because I had to. I had always been drawn to this vast land for reasons that to this day remain hidden deep in my subconscious, but now I am here it all kind of makes sense. Perhaps I was Canadian in a former life, or else born in the wrong place? I can never know, but the fact is I feel prouder as a Canadian than I ever did as a Brit, have never felt happier living anywhere than I do here, and everything about my situation in this exact location feels utterly natural and as it should be. I have given up trying to work it all out, as in fact there is no need to: I am here, I am happy, and that's that.
Tomorrow would have been my mother's 84th birthday, but she was snatched from this world by cancer aged just 61, not a year retired. She left me her house, which I sold, and some other dough that I used to take that trip around the globe. So, as perverse as it is, I would likely not be in Canada, as happy as I am, or have met my amazing wife, or experienced so much else that has occurred in my world, had my mom lived. That's a bittersweet fact I have to live with, for sure, but I have a beautiful framed photograph of my beloved mom on my desk, so see and talk to her every single day. She would be very happy to know how things turned out for me, especially considering everything Susan and I have been through to reach this place of true happiness.
By beautiful synchronicity, I will be celebrating this twist of fate tomorrow in a certain Canadian and typical me style, by going to see two great Canadian bands live. Our old friends Elliott Brood are back in town, with local lovelies Blue Moon Marquee opening. It promises to be a raucous and beautiful evening, with my wife by my side and many friends around the room.
I am a very, very lucky man.